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The new European political consensus: we must build more weapons

BRUSSELS — European public opinion and politicians agree that EU countries should do more to increase arms production.

This is what emerges from the results of the latest Eurobarometer survey, obtained in advance by POLITICO Playbook, and from a draft EU strategic program consulted by POLITICO.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine more than two years ago radically changed the narrative on defense spending, putting it at the top of the entire bloc’s agenda – often to the detriment of other policy areas such as the fight against climate change.

Governments and ordinary citizens respond to war.

The Eurobarometer found that 77 percent of respondents support a common defense and security policy between EU countries, while 71 percent agree that the EU needs to strengthen its capacity to produce military equipment.

Politicians generally agree on this point.

Among EU leaders, there is “overwhelming consensus on the aim of taking greater responsibility for our security and defence”, according to a draft Strategic Agenda – a document adopted every five years which sets out the objectives of the block.

National officials are finalizing it under the coordination of European Council President Charles Michel and will meet again on Friday. The aim is to present it to European leaders next month.

This effort “will create an internal market for defense products and services, strengthening production capacity and promoting joint procurement.”

But increasing arms production means increasing defense spending. European countries have been increasing spending for about a decade – since Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 – but the pace has accelerated significantly thanks to pressure from former President Donald Trump and then the invasion large-scale attack on Ukraine by Russia.

NATO says this year, two-thirds of its 32 members will meet the alliance’s goal of spending at least 2% of their GDP on defense. Today, countries like the United Kingdom and Poland are demanding that this amount go even higher.

“It’s time for the world to wake up. And that means translating this moment into concrete plans and capabilities. And that starts by laying the foundations for an alliance-wide increase in spending on our collective deterrence,” British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps said this week.

The EU’s strategic agenda also addresses the question of where to find additional money to spend on defence.

The project includes “a new defense fund for European projects” by expanding the mandate of the European Investment Bank. This is something EU finance ministers are already working on by changing banking rules to make it easier to lend to defense projects.

The draft also mentions “the possibility of EU defense obligations”. However, frugal countries led by Germany do not want to increase common EU borrowing.

The proposal does not mention the use of liquidity from the European Stability Mechanism, which provides emergency financial aid to euro zone members. It’s an idea circulating in Brussels, but which has not caught on.

The shift in defense thinking has been driven by the war in Ukraine, and the Barometer poll, taken in April, reveals overwhelming support for aid to kyiv.

Humanitarian aid is supported by 87 percent of respondents, 70 percent support the imposition of sanctions on Russia and 60 percent approve of EU financing the purchase and supply of military equipment to Ukraine.


Sara Adm

Aimant les mots, Sara Smith a commencé à écrire dès son plus jeune âge. En tant qu'éditeur en chef de son journal scolaire, il met en valeur ses compétences en racontant des récits impactants. Smith a ensuite étudié le journalisme à l'université Columbia, où il est diplômé en tête de sa classe. Après avoir étudié au New York Times, Sara décroche un poste de journaliste de nouvelles. Depuis dix ans, il a couvert des événements majeurs tels que les élections présidentielles et les catastrophes naturelles. Il a été acclamé pour sa capacité à créer des récits captivants qui capturent l'expérience humaine.
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